About a month ago, a want-to-be suicide bomber was arrested just blocks away from Capitol Hill and my office at The Heritage Foundation. Thankfully, a sting by law enforcement agencies kept the public from harm, but the story should be a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism remains real. A strong, proactive Department of Homeland Security is critical to keeping us safe. A new paper by Jessica Zuckerman at Heritage notes that while the new DHS budget properly funds many programs, it falls short in several areas.
First, the budget focuses on the wrong solutions for aviation security. Since 9/11, 45 known terror plots have been thwarted, but none of these involved TSA screening procedures. Unfortunately, low cost programs like the Federal Flight Deck Officer program (FFDO) are being cut, despite their proven record of enhancing security. Early detection efforts, information sharing, risk-based security measures, and inexpensive but effective programs like FFDO can be used in tandem to provide the best defense.
Second, the DHS budget reveals certain failures in U.S. border security efforts. The Border Patrol could use more surveillance technology, such as drones and sensors, to improve their monitoring abilities, as part of a larger comprehensive border security strategy. Also important to border security, the Coast Guard is in serious need of new vessels, since the average age of the current fleet is over 40 years old. According to Zuckerman, "investing in the Coast Guard may very well be the most cost-effective means to protect U.S. interests, particularly in the Pacific and the Arctic."
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"- we need to re-think our homeland security priorities and shift our focus to proven, effective defenses.